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Second guilty plea in Va. gold heists

The husband in a couple that targeted South Asian families in Northern Virginia for break-ins pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to steal at least $500,000 worth of gold and other valuables in 37 burglaries.

Dagoberto Soto-Ramirez, 27, of New York City entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Alexandria less than a week after his wife admitted her guilt and described how the couple and third alleged conspirator -- who remains at large -- scrolled through names in phonebooks to target what they believed to be Indian homes.

The homes were chosen, the couple has told a federal judge, because the families often kept gold there as part of family customs.

Federal prosecutors picked up the case after local cases brought in Fairfax and Loudoun counties collapsed.

Soto-Ramirez was indicted on July 15 by a federal grand jury for conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 3.

According to court records, from January to November 2009, Soto-Ramirez and at least two others – his wife, Melinda Marie Soto, 34, and Francisco Gray, 40, both from New York – agreed to travel to Northern Virginia for mostly daytime burglaries.

Soto-Ramirez admitted in court that he helped locate names and residences of potential victims, posed as a service man when approaching target residences, and would break into the home if no one answered to search the residence for gold, jewelry, computers and other property. The burglars took their loot to New York, where they sold it, they told the court.

Soto pleaded guilty to conspiracy on Sept. 17. Gray remains a fugitive.

--Mary Pat Flaherty

By Mary Pat Flaherty  | September 21, 2010; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Loudoun, Mary Pat Flaherty, Updates  
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